Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Should I Invest in a Fitness Tracker?

Fitness trackers are all the buzz these days, but do you know what to look for when choosing one? With so many sizes, colors, capabilities and prices, which one should you choose? Or should you even invest in one? Let me offer some considerations when or if you do choose to purchase one.

If you’re like me, you contemplated making this purchase and for good reason! Wearable fitness tracking devices can vary in prices, from $50.00 all the way up to $1,095.00! With that hefty price tag, comes many things to consider. Do you think you’ll use it, what exactly are you trying to track or monitor, and do you need water resistant or waterproof? Let’s break down the capabilities of these devices and what you should ask yourself as you research the different options.  

[Related Post: Why Wearable Fitness Trackers Aren't Your Wellness Program]

You must first ask yourself if you think you’ll find activity-tracking beneficial. You certainly don’t want to buy it only for it to sit on the dresser collecting dust. If you do think you want to purchase one, you have five things you’ll want to consider; style, display, compatibility, battery life and water proof.

Fitness trackers range from the super simple, to featuring all the bells and whistles. If you want to know how many steps you take a day, look for an all-day tracker. However, if you want more details on those steps (e.g. speed, pace, and stride), you may want to investigate a training tracker. Training trackers can provide data that’s specifically tailored to a certain exercise (i.e. marathon runners). All day trackers measure your total steps taken, stairs you’ve climbed, duration of exercise, active minutes and sleep time. Training trackers do everything an all-day tracker does PLUS the following: heart rate, breathing patterns, miles traveled, speed, pace, and route information. Some may also be able to control music, make and receive calls, text messaging and emails. Now let’s talk more in depth about the five options I mentioned above.

Activity Tracker GettyImages-918102996.jpg

Style - Many trackers can be worn on the wrist, but there are some that can be worn as pendants or clipped to your clothing. Manufacturers are also paying more attention to design details; think color, shape, and material. Make sure you choose one you’ll feel comfortable wearing all day.

Display - The advanced trackers display a slew of data on the screen. Others (i.e. pendant trackers) show limited data and display information via an LED light, or will only show up on an app. Think about how you want to see your data. Do you want to see it immediately, or are you okay with looking it up on an app when near your phone?

Compatibility - Make sure your cell phone or computer is compatible before you buy a tracker. There’s nothing worse than spending money, only to realize the device isn’t user friendly with your current phone or computer. Most devices on the market will work with Apple’s iOS and Android systems. However, few work devices work with Windows.

Battery Life - Depending on which device you choose, will depend on the length of battery life. A tracker with more bells and whistles will require more frequent charges than a simple band tracker. You also want to pay attention to rechargeable versus non-rechargeable. Some run on batteries like cameras and calculators, others come with charging devices.

Water - Trackers are either water-resistant or waterproof. Keep in mind, water resistant only means that the tracker can be splashed with water, not submerged. This means they can withstand a decent amount of sweating, but certainly not a dip in the pool.

I hope that this information will help you narrow down which type of tracker to purchase. Or, maybe I talked you out of purchasing one altogether. Either way, remember that a tracker is a lot like a gym membership - you must use it for it to work!

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Topics: wearables healthy choices healthy lifestyle fitness tips fitness trackers

Why Wearable Fitness Trackers Aren't Your Wellness Program

ThinkstockPhotos-470428334.jpgConsidering how long it can take to make a global shift in corporate America, the rise of wearable fitness trackers in wellness has been meteoric. A recent study reports an anticipated 13M wearables will enter the corporate wellness market by 2018. Despite the rapid adoption of this technology by businesses for their employees, there remains healthy skepticism about what exactly is being measured and who is privy to that data.

It would be tempting, I think, for an employer to see wearable tech as the answer to their questions about how to have an employee wellness program. The devices are relatively inexpensive and generally easy to use. And many adults already use a device without it being connected to a corporate wellness program, so there is no introduction of something foreign to which the workforce must adapt.

But the easy answer isn't always the right answer. Here are three reasons why wearable fitness trackers aren't your wellness program.

1. It's not always about the numbers.

Despite the continued drumbeat for measurement, ROI, and quantifying value in wellness, providing opportunities for your employees to live well isn't always about the numbers. If you're offering a wellness program and your only goal is to save money on healthcare costs for the business, you're (dare I say) probably doing employee wellness for the wrong reasons.

Your employees are people—people with complicated and busy lives. If you want them to live well, you may want to rethink your desire to hook them up with a tracking device that's going to report on everything from steps to sleep. You might view it as a perk, while employees see it as more pressure.

If you insist on wearables in your wellness program, consider them as an option among many other tools your workforce can choose from to live well in ways that are meaningful to them.

[Related Content: Why Employee Purpose might be the Heart of Corporate Wellness]

 

2. Like most programs under the corporate wellness banner, one size does not fit all.

If you're a fan of using a tracker personally, it may come as a surprise that they're not a good choice for everyone. Some people are quickly defeated by the constant barrage of information, so instead of serving as a device to motivate individuals, they have the opposite effect. Other people quickly turn to obsession with the data, constantly feeling like they need to do more, move more, sleep better, etc., to the exclusion of other more important activities (like work). As eloquently stated in this personal account, "...there is a fine line between health consciousness and a health obsession...."

While this study on wearables points to a 53% adoption rate for the under-40 employee crowd (note that the adoption rate for the over-50 employee group was at 36%) as a good thing, I'm left to wonder...what about the other 50+% of your workforce? If you insist on wearables in your wellness program, understand the potential reach as well as the potential concerns among your employees. Diversity in your offerings acknowledges the varied interests and passions of your employees.

3. High-tech has a place, but so does high-touch.

I've written about high-tech vs. high-touch in corporate wellness before. Wellness isn't an either/or proposition when you consider high-tech and high-touch options. You need sophisticated tech solutions to understand what is and isn't working in your wellness program. Still, there are limits to what technology can do for your business when it comes to helping employees live well.

For the employee who is caring for his parents who are aging in place with dementia, the wellness tracker does not get him more engaged at work or taking more steps; it only leaves him feeling more alone in his caregiving situation. It doesn't provide support for him while he struggles to figure out how he's going to get dinner to his parents and still make it to his son's baseball game. But if he has a relationship with the wellness manager (high-touch), he might open up about this personal situation. Then the wellness manager can help him find resources through the EAP or the local-area agency on aging.

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Your amazing employees are complex and they need a variety of tools at their disposal to live well. Wearables aren't the answer; they're just a piece of the puzzle. Need to think outside the wearable option? Grab these seven ideas for how to make movement easy at work.

Looking to add exercise options to your corporate wellness offerings?  Check our out free download to help get you started!

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Topics: wearables technology fitness trackers corporate wellness ROI